Creative Nonfiction: Serenity in Ruins by Kim Vasquez
Serenity in Ruins
The moment I opened my eyes, I knew it would be a bad day. The throbbing pain on the left side of my head made it clear that I had a migraine. I was already overwhelmed with everything I had to do, and the migraine made it worse.
My husband and I had just purchased an apartment in the heart of Old San Juan. It was a beautiful old colonial full of charm and history. And it was a lifelong dream of mine to own one. But the amount of work I had to do to get it ready for the renters that would, hopefully, help us pay the mortgage was almost a nightmare.
So, I got out of bed, determined to find coffee and some serenity. I decided to take the morning off and wander the old city, soaking up the sights for the millionth time. Usually, I could stare at one of the old buildings for hours, imagining the lives that had lived there or sit on a bench in the plaza all afternoon, enjoying the cool breeze while people-watching.
But this time, it wasn’t working. I kept thinking about everything I had to do. The pain in my head was piercing, and the warm air just felt hot and sticky. I felt myself getting cranky. And every beautiful old building I looked at just flashed dollar signs at me.
I headed to the store to get an iced something with caffeine. And as I passed a ruin of what a hundred years ago was some family’s home, I stopped. I had seen this particular ruin too many times to count. But this time, it called out to me.
So, I got closer as thoughts of how many repairs and cleaning it would take to fix the building popped up in my mind. And I got crankier. But I still crossed the street and looked through a dilapidated wood frame that at one time had been a window. The boards that had covered it had partially fallen away from time and decay, but the Spanish colonial wooden bars were still strong.
As I looked in and saw the deterioration and collapse and the piles of garbage, a ginger cat stared back. He stood out from everything around him, and it wasn’t just because of the color of his fur. It was also because of the calm and serenity that emanated from him. I could feel it travelling through the air and washing over me.
I’m not the type of person who claims to talk to animals and hear them respond. However, that day and at that moment, I could swear that that cat had communicated with me. Or maybe it was the Universe speaking through the cat. I don’t know. But I felt it—a calmness and a sense that everything was going to be okay.
My migraine loosened its grip on me and a weight lifted as I looked at that cat. And the cat remained motionless as he stared back.
I smiled and walked away, and a sense of relief washed over me. Everything was going to be fine; I could feel it.
From then on, every time I was in Old San Juan, I would pass by those ruins and look for that ginger cat, but I never saw him. Not until three years later. Pandemic restrictions were starting to ease up, and I travelled back to Puerto Rico to check on our apartment. I was stressed and anxious about everything happening and decided to walk around my favorite colonial city. Without realizing it, I wound up in front of the same ruins. And, again, they called out to me. So, I decided to look in, and there he was.
The ginger cat stared at me just like it had before. And just like before, I felt a calmness take over. As I walked away, I smiled. Everything was going to be okay.